Sunday, April 16, 2023

My 2023 Big Texas tasting card

Image credits: Tupps Brewery, Ghost Eye Brewing Co., Funky Picnic Brewery & Café, Windmills,
Equal Parts Brewing, Peticolas Brewing Co., Vector Brewing, Manhattan Project Beer Co., Brewvolution.

According to my records, my last visit to the area's longest running beer festival was in 2019. Surely the plague was partially to blame, though I'm sure life probably has been getting in the way as well. In any case, it was fun to be back at it once again with other beer denizens at this weekend's Big Texas Beer Fest (BTBF).

Taking place in the familiar confines of the Fair Park Automobile Building in Dallas, the 2023 event featured 97 beverage makers serving up a variety of more than 400 craft beers, ciders and seltzers. Over 50 of the breweries in attendance hailed from North Texas, representing roughly half of the brands that serve our local industry.

Among those set up and sampling, Jester King Brewery of Austin attracted some of the largest crowds around its booth, but Delirium Brewery of Belgium established quite a presence as well. The latter brought along a large inflatable version of the pink elephant that adorns its logo, and at some point, brewery reps doled out a plethora of pink elephant hats to attendees.

Also drawing interest was a gun mount exhibit from the Battleship Texas, an attraction brought in by Altstadt Brewery of Fredericksburg and the Battleship Texas Foundation Group. The vessel itself, which fought in both World War I and World War II, is currently dry docked in Galveston while it undergoes restoration.

Getting back to festival beverages, while there were a fair number of lagers, stouts and sour beers, IPAs naturally ruled the day. By my count, there were easily more than 100 IPAs available on the festival floor. I tried exactly one, IPA Series 1 from Ghost Eye Brewing Co. of Dickinson. The beer led with a mix of citrus and tropical fruit flavors, finishing with a welcome pithy bitterness.

And while we're on the subject, if you've ever had doubts about IPA's dominance as craft beer's most popular style, let me tell you about the BTBF booth occupied by Shiner.  The little brewery known for its lagers had a trio of IPAs in the offing when I surveyed their selection, and nothing else. All ales and not a drop of that ubiquitous dark lager? Talk about stepping outside the "bocks."

As for other festival favorites, I direct you to the summaries below. It should be noted that I mostly stuck to beers of lower strength, though I did enjoy a dose of Enriched Plutonium - a rum barrel-aged version of Plutonium 239 from Manhattan Project Beer Co. of Dallas. 

Oh, and as always...selections are new to the market, or at least new to me.


Rice is nice

I kicked things off with a pour of Kaizen, a Japanese rice lager from Equal Parts Brewing of Houston. Let's just say this was a light, refreshing and easily crushable quaff.

Keeping your wits about you

I recommend keeping six wits about you, to be in keeping on hand a sixer of Day Pass from Tupps Brewery of McKinney. The company's newest offering is a stylistic Belgian witbier, and just the kind of beer I could drink all day.

Amber waves

Once upon a time, nearly every brewery made an amber beer of some sort. Right now, there are two ambers of note in North Texas. One is Sonidero, a smooth and malty amber lager from Windmills of The Colony. That beer won a gold medal at the 2022 Great American Beer Festival. Another is Amberversary, a nicely-balanced amber ale with a hint of hop happiness from Vector Brewing of Dallas. Wait, what year is it again?

Woodruff is the way

Got Berliner weisse? Get German woodruff (it's a plant). That is, if you like beer descriptors like sweet and sour, floral and funky. Berliners weren't on my radar going into BTBF, but Eclectus from Peticolas Brewing Co. of Dallas, with a shot of woodruff syrup, ended up being one of the more enjoyable pours of the day.

More smoked beers please, 'twould appease

Smoked beers are one of my favorite styles. Couple that with a beer name referencing the guttural growl of one's favorite musician, along with a recipe using malt smoked on the grounds of the historic Kreische brewery site in La Grange, and well, you've got my attention. Coming from Funky Picnic Brewery & Café of Fort Worth, A Haw-Haw-Haw-Haw in Billy Gibbons' Voice is a smoked helles with pecans. And yeah, it's fine, if you've got the time...

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